Replace letters to patients with emails, GPs told: Health Secretary calls for overhaul as millions of pounds are spent each year on stamps and paper
- Health Secretary will say that the NHS should send emails rather than letters
- Matt Hancock will call for emails to become GPs’ main communication method
- It comes after Mr Hancock banned hospitals from buying fax machines last year
The NHS should send emails to patients rather than letters, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will say today
The NHS should send emails to patients rather than letters, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will say today.
He will call for emails to become the main method of communication by GPs and hospitals within two years.
Mr Hancock – who has already announced several other new technology initiatives – will tell doctors that concerns about patient confidentiality are no excuse for failing to use online communication.
Hospitals and GP surgeries spend tens of millions of pounds a year on stamps, envelopes and paper.
Speaking to an NHS England conference today, the Health Secretary will say: ‘Having to deal with outdated technology is hugely frustrating for staff and patients alike – and in many cases downright dangerous.
‘A letter lost in the post could be the difference between life and death.’
It comes after Mr Hancock banned hospitals from buying fax machines last year. The tech-savvy MP says that 40 years after the first email was sent the NHS needs to accept the technology will be in use for a long time.
Hospitals and GP surgeries spend millions on stamps, envelopes and paper (stock image)
He will say: ‘Today’s guidance confirms there is no reason why a doctor cannot email a patient confidentially, for example with their test results or prescription, rather than make them wait days for a letter or ask them to come into the surgery. The rest of the world runs on email – and the NHS should too.’
It is not in the Health Secretary’s powers to force doctors and hospitals to use email although he can change inspection rules to mark down health providers that do not make the change. Patients will still be able to request paper letters after the switch in 2021.
Head of policy at the Patients’ Association, John Kell, told The Times: ‘Email communications can be secure and provide an audit trail for patients as well as benefiting the environment, but patients must be given the choice as to whether to opt in to receiving updates by email or to continue with more traditional services.’
Royal College of GPs chairman Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘The practicalities of how we do it need to be thought through carefully – current IT systems in the NHS are often clunky and frustrating but there isn’t an easy fix and it is difficult to see how the changes being advocated can be done safely in the timescales being spoken about.’